SC tells Speaker to defer call on Karnataka MLAs

Court orders status quo, schedules hearing for Tuesday
The Supreme Court on Friday pressed the pause button in the legal battle for power in Karnataka, asking Assembly Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar to refrain from deciding on the disqualification or resignation of 10 rebel Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs for the time being. The order comes just a day after the court asked Mr. Ramesh Kumar to meet the 10 MLAs at 6 p.m. on July 11 and decide on their resignations “forthwith or in the course of the remaining part of the day”. On Friday, a Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, ordered status quo and scheduled the hearing for Tuesday next. The Bench’s decision came after an hour-long hearing, in which Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy said the rebel MLAs had dragged the court into a “political thicket”. The hearing began with senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for the rebel MLAs, adopting an aggressive tone, saying the Speaker did not take a decision on the resignations after meeting the MLAs on July 11. Mr. Rohatgi said the Speaker instead held a press conference where he was heard asking “why the hell did the MLAs go to the Supreme Court and not come to me.” ‘Deliberate delay’ Mr. Rohatgi said the “game” is to delay action on the resignations and brazenly nudge events to culminate in the disqualification of the MLAs for not obeying their party’s whip during the Assembly session which commenced on July 12. He claimed the Speaker had returned the disqualification of eight out of 10 MLAs filed on July 10, but did not substantiate the claim with an affidavit in this regard. “The Speaker can be given two more days to decide on the resignations. If he does not want to decide at all, this is a case of contempt,” Mr. Rohatgi submitted. But the Speaker countered saying his meeting with the MLAs on July 11 was video-graphed. Mr. Kumar said the MLAs are on camera backtracking their claims that he had made himself “scarce” on July 6 when they came to tender their resignation at his office. The Speaker said the MLAs had misled the court. “The MLAs during the course of the hearing admitted that they had never tendered their resignation to the Speaker personally. The MLAs also confirmed that they had neither sought time nor an appointment with the Speaker. They stated that it is wrong to state that when the MLAs had come to offer resignation, the Speaker escaped through the back door,” the Speaker said in the affidavit.

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